Democratic Party Elites Worry Candidates Aren’t Up to the Task

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, August 27, 2014
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, August 27, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)
  • Deval Patrick, the center-left former governor of Massachusetts, and a friend of former president Barack Obama, has entered the Democratic presidential primary.
  • Obama himself has warned candidates to “pay some attention to where voters actually are.”

    The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. They just don’t want to see crazy stuff.

  • Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a centrist, has filed paperwork in Alabama, which has an early cut-off date, just in case he decides to run.
  • Even Hillary Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump in 2016, is not ruling out another bid, telling the BBC, “I’m under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it.”
  • Democratic Party officials have been slow to endorse candidates this year. Read more “Democratic Party Elites Worry Candidates Aren’t Up to the Task”

Republicans Won’t Allow Trump to Face Competition

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Remember when Trumpists were up in arms in 2016 about internal Republican attempts to deny their man the presidential nomination?

I defended such attempts at the time, arguing that Republicans had every right to use every method at their disposal to stop a candidate so patently unfit for high office and one who didn’t even share their views on foreign policy and trade. (Most Republicans have since come around to Trump’s views.)

But Donald Trump’s supporters saw an “establishment” plot and demanded that the “democratic” will of the Republican electorate be respected. (No matter that only 45 percent of primary voters supported Trump.)

Not anymore. Read more “Republicans Won’t Allow Trump to Face Competition”

Why It’s Fair Not to Treat Sanders Like the Democratic Frontrunner

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders takes part in a protest in Washington DC, November 17, 2016
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders takes part in a protest in Washington DC, November 17, 2016 (Lorie Shaull)

NBC’s political team asks if it is fair to treat Bernie Sanders as an insurgent rather than the legitimate frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, given his high name recognition and the fact that he has raised more money than the other candidates.

I think so. Read more “Why It’s Fair Not to Treat Sanders Like the Democratic Frontrunner”

Invisible Democratic Primary News

Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren attends a meeting in Worcester, October 22, 2017
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren attends a meeting in Worcester, October 22, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has formed an exploratory committee to run for president and is visiting the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • California senator Kamala Harris has closed her state campaign committee and is on a publicity tour for her new book.
  • Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are planning trips to Iowa.
  • Many in the media continue to advise Joe Biden against running, most recently The Boston Globe, The Economist, Vox and WGBH.
  • Independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is shaking up his staff to make it less male and white. Read more “Invisible Democratic Primary News”

Democrats’ Invisible Primary Underway

White House Washington
The South Portico of the White House in Washington DC, July 27, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons/Carlos Delgado)

The “invisible primary” in America’s Democratic Party is underway.

In this phase — between the most recent congressional elections and the first official announcements — presidential hopefuls quietly court donors, party bosses, friendly journalists and affiliated interest groups.

Here are some of the latest developments: Read more “Democrats’ Invisible Primary Underway”

Give Superdelegates More, Not Less, Power

Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

California, Illinois, New York and Texas have 30 percent of the American population between them. Yet because they are late in the primary calendar, they have almost no say in the selection of presidential candidates.

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have only 3 percent of the population, yet because they are first in line to vote they have disproportionate power in the process. If a candidate fails to win at least one of the first three primary states, he or she usually drops out.

How is that democratic? Read more “Give Superdelegates More, Not Less, Power”

Establishment-Backed Candidates Prevail in Primaries

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco at the time, gives a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, October 3, 2008
Gavin Newsom, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco at the time, gives a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, October 3, 2008 (Charlie Nguyen)

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reports that Democratic and Republican Party elites had a good night in America. In most of the primary elections held on Tuesday, establishment-backed candidates prevailed. Read more “Establishment-Backed Candidates Prevail in Primaries”

The Party Can Still Decide

Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

“The party decides” theory — which argues that American party elites exert a strong behind-the-scenes influence on who gets nominated for political office — took a blow in 2016, when Donald Trump won the Republican presidential contest despite strong internal opposition.

One exception doesn’t discredit the whole theory, theory. Seth Masket argues at Mischiefs of Faction that this year’s nominating contests show activists and party leaders are still actively shaping the choices voters will get. Read more “The Party Can Still Decide”

How Did “the” Party Decide on Trump?

Businessman Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump’s success in the Republican presidential contest has puzzled those of us who believe “the party decides.”

For the uninitiated: In 2008, four political scientists argued in The Party Decides that it is “the” party, broadly understood as a network of elected, local and state officials, donors, insiders and affiliated interest and lobby groups, that collectively decides presidential nominating contests by nudging voters in the right direction.

Or, as The Economist summarizes their argument: “parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.”

The four never argued that voters don’t matter. But their research into past presidential primaries, going back to the reforms of the late 1960s, which gave ordinary voters more power, suggested that the parties had figured out ways to manipulate the nominating process in favor of their preferred candidate.

In the case of Republicans, that typically meant following William F. Buckley’s advice to nominate the most conservative candidate who could win the general election.

Trump is clearly neither.

Most of what we think of as “the” party agreed from the start. Trump was endorsed by few elected officials. Former presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney both argued against him. Republican-friendly publications, like National Review, as well as Republican-affiliated think tanks and lobby groups, from the Cato Institute to the Club for Growth, actively campaigned against Trump. All to no avail.

So did “the” party fail? That’s one theory and there is something to it. Read more “How Did “the” Party Decide on Trump?”

Republican Party Has Every Right to Stop Trump

Members of the Texas delegation listen to a speech at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, September 2, 2008
Members of the Texas delegation listen to a speech at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, September 2, 2008 (PBS/Tom LeGro)

If Republicans in the United States only manage to stop Donald Trump by making use of arcane nominating rules and convention dealmaking, many would inevitably deride this as an establishment coup against the legitimate frontrunner for the presidential nomination.

There is some truth in this. Trump is, after all, ahead in the delegate count. But the argument rests on a misunderstanding of what political parties are for. Read more “Republican Party Has Every Right to Stop Trump”